B L A C K I E, GEN
B L A C K I E — that’s all caps, no spaces — seems like the type of musician who doesn’t want you to hear his music. It almost seems as if the first track on GEN, “Gen I,” is a test to see if you can make it to the rest of the songs; it has that nails-on-chalkboard feel to it.
Once you get past the opening, though, the songs begin to flow together quite well, and you will slowly begin to realize what makes this “B L A C K I E” person everyone keeps talking about so great.
When B L A C K I E was first described to me oh-so-many years ago, I was simply told he was a rapper. Boy, was that an understatement. B L A C K I E doesn’t rap so much as he shouts words at you, accompanied by various musical backings and other vocalists singing along key parts.
“Radiowaves,” for example, is a great song that has this sort of fun, “here we go,” anthem feel to it, that if anything sounds more like the Bouncing Souls or H2O (on some strange level) than anything close to hip-hop or rap.
“Loading Dock Blues” has this rusty old acoustic guitar riff in the background, which is what I would imagine a cross between Johnny Cash, 2Pac, and Kurt Cobain would sound like. (Cash for the music, Pac for the lyrics, and Cobain for the screaming.)
Most of the time, B L A C K I E seems to be screaming more than singing, along the lines of a hardcore/metal/metalcore/screamo type of band. The first and foremost band that comes to my mind is The Dedication, though I realize that not everybody has heard of them. Still, they just fit the bill like a glove, because when I hear B L A C K I E scream, all I hear is, “Thanks for not caring,” a Dedication line. I also can make comparisons of B L A C K I E’s vocal style to that of the comedian Sam Kinison. Sure, there aren’t exactly funny lyrics, but it’s just the way that most comics tend to speak when Sam screamed — that’s B L A C K I E in hip-hop.
There are a few shorter songs on this album, as well, which either serve as interludes or just flat-out short songs, such as “The Safety of Poverty.” When we get into the song “Everybody Knows (When We Get Together),” it’s the closest thing to a rap anthem I can find on this album. It’s sort of like E-Town Concrete, Wu Tang Clan, or Onyx — you know, something along those lines. I especially like the chorus of: “We gonna scream / We gonna shout / We gonna fuck shit up.” Hell yeah, you are, B L A C K I E.
Just when you think you’ve got B L A C K I E figured out, he goes and throws out a piano riff in “Home Town Blues,” one that could be like the sad, walking-away end music from the old Hulk series.
I feel ultimately that I fell in love with GEN for two reasons. First off, B L A C K I E raps a lot about his own father and about being a father in his own right, and being a new father myself, I do feel like I can relate to these lyrics more, although at the same time, it doesn’t really matter what B L A C K I E is screaming about so much as that you listen to him screaming about it.
The most compelling reason to listen to this music, though, is just the sheer oddity of it. It combines elements that you’ve heard before — but never together — and you might not think that they would work together, but they do. I first remember when I was told about a band that combined ska with death metal. I thought it couldn’t work and I was right — that band appealed to me in no way. I’m telling you, this is something special that you need to hear.